Round up some friends and spend the day sampling a selection of low-alcohol brews.
Wed Feb 15 2012
Photograph: Jolie Ruben
Start: 43 Franklin St between Calyer and Quay Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn
End: 359 Metropolitan Ave at Havemeyer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Time: 4 hours
Distance: 1.5 miles
The appeal of session beers—a category of suds known for delivering plenty of flavor without a ton of alcohol—is that you can keep the pints coming without face-planting on the sidewalk at evening's end. As such, they lend themselves perfectly to a pub crawl: Start your exploration of these less potent brews at The Diamond (43 Franklin St between Calyer and Quay Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn; 718-383-5030, thediamondbrooklyn.com), which devotes an entire section of its menu to low-alcohol varieties (owner Dave Pollack ensures that they're all under 4.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), though 5 percent is a common standard). Offerings like Stone's Levitation ($6)—a citrusy ale with just 4.4 percent ABV—or cans of 21st Amendment's hoppy Bitter American ($6) are mainstays. Throw one back while challenging your friends to a match on the bar's shuffleboard table.
It's easy to get overwhelmed by the choices at Spritzenhaus (33 Nassau Ave between Dobbin and Guernsey Sts, Greenpoint, Brooklyn; 347-987-4632, spritzenhaus33.com), a massive beer hall whose 25 drafts and more than 50 bottles include about 10 moderate brews, such as Germany's Jever Pilsener ($7). If you're not a stickler for rules, take advantage of the subversive Recession Session Special, which pairs a bottle of Full Sail's crisp Session Lager with a shot of whiskey for just six bucks. At 5.1 percent ABV, the beer is a hair above the standard accepted strength for a session beer, but the additional booze will help you forget about that detail.
Get back on track at d.b.a Brooklyn (113 North 7th St between Berry St and Wythe Ave, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-218-6632), the Billyburg outpost of the late Ray Deter's craft-beer mini-empire. Like its Manhattan sibling, the bar is equipped with a massive blackboard listing more than more than 200 bottled beers. Pay your respects to the United Kingdom, the birthplace of the term session beer, by sipping an English brew. Easy-going options like the malty Fuller's London Pride ($6) and St. Peter's Organic English Ale ($7) can be found on the robust British section of the menu.
You'll find a boisterous crowd clanking massive liter steins at Radegast Hall and Biergarten (113 North 3rd St at Berry St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-963-3973, radegasthall.com)—given the supersize glassware, it's a good thing that a few classic low-ABV brews are on tap. Once your crew has settled in around one of the long, communal wooden tables, choose among staples like a refreshing Gaffel Klsch (half-liter $8, liter $15, pitcher $21) or Radeberger pilsner (half-liter $7, liter $13, pitcher $18). Both clock in around 5 percent ABV and pair well with hearty Bavarian grub, such as a grilled bratwurst on a pretzel bun ($9).
End the evening at Spuyten Duyvil (359 Metropolitan Ave at Havemeyer St, Williamsburg, Brooklyn; 718-963-4140, spuytenduyvilnyc.com), which draws in beer lovers with a selection of hard-to-find brews. Try to claim the larger table at the back of the bar, or—if the weather is decent—you can park at one of the tables in the backyard. Settle in with a bottle of Coniston's Bluebird Bitter ($7--$10) and toast to your newfound appreciation for session brews.